The Giving Pledge

For my case study research paper, I have decided that I want to focus on The Giving Pledge. The Giving Pledge, started by Bill and Melinda Gates as well as their pal Warren Buffett, is “a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.” In practice, this commitment asks for these individuals and/or families to donate over 50% to philanthropy or charitable causes either in their lifetime or in their will. There is no guideline as to what cause or to whom they can donate to, as long as they, in fact, give their wealth away. ¬†At first, this was aimed at an audience based in the United States, but with a high level of enthusiasm, Gates and Buffett, have started to expand, not only the reach of the Pledge, but also the perks offered by essentially “joining the network.” Yet, despite the original rapid growth of the Pledge, international support of the Pledge has been hard to come by and Gates and Buffett have encountered resistance within a variety of different countries and cultures.

My interest in the Pledge originally stems from my work in the philanthropic field this summer and a newfound understanding about just how much this means to the world and the level of impact this can have. For my case study, I want to explore the reasons behind what inspired Gates and Buffett to start this initiative, why it has been so successful in the context of the United States and why it has encountered difficulty in expanding into other countries. What does this new trend in philanthropic mega-giving say about the society in which we live? Is this good, or is this merely a way of easing the conscious of the mega-wealthy?

Gates and Buffett are clearly onto something here and they have a great deal of support from all over the world and a large amount of support specifically in the United States. To examine this, I am leaning towards Williams and Gramsci, while perhaps incorporating a bit of Foucault. I think their ideas on emergent culture, hegemony, interpellation, and power will be particularly effective in explaining this new phenomenon in philanthropy. Ultimately, I would argue that this good for the world and argue that philanthropy is, in fact, the love of people.

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